The steps of my builds and mods

To see the steps for a specific build in chronological order select any build under the “Mutant Bicycle Builds” menu item above.  The steps for the selection chosen will then be sorted and displayed in chronological order so that all you need to do is scroll down.

The Sladda Bike Trailer from IKEA

IKEA carries this really cool bike trailer.  It’s called the Sladda and compliments their Sladda belt-driven bicycle.

This aluminum frame and wood deck trailer is large and lightweight. It weighs in at 24 lbs. and can carry a maximum load of 108 lbs.

The trailer’s tongue can be repositioned to create a hand cart (see above). The trailer also has plastic fenders to keep cargo from getting entangled in the spokes of the wheels.  #nicefeature

The trailer attaches to a bicycle using this coupler (pictured above).  The coupler easily attaches (bolts on) to the rear axle of the tow bike.


The trailer then hitches to the coupler and is secured by a clevis pin.

The trailer’s 20-inch wheels make towing a breeze, and allows for substantial carrying weight (108 lbs. max load).

The Sladda is a very well designed and attractive bike trailer. It lists for $179, but is available for $129 at the IKEA FAMILY member price.

I can’t wait to use this at the next festival I attend.


Spotted at IKEA

IKEA sells bikes? Who knew?

On our way back from the bay area this afternoon we stopped at the IKEA store in Sacramento, California. While browsing through the store we came across this bike and matching cargo trailer.

Part of IKEA’s “Family Collection“, this bike is called the Sladda and features a belt-driven drive train.

The Sladda bike comes with a “25-year limited warranty on the frame and 10-year limited warranty on the belt drive”. IKEA also offers accessories for the bike, including a matching front rack, rear rack, and rear panniers.

And to top it off, IKEA offers a sweet matching cargo trailer for the Sladda. However, this trailer would work for any bike.

The Sladda bicycle retails for $499, however can be purchased for $399 at the “IKEA FAMILY member” price. [Becoming an IKEA FAMILY member is free and can easily be done on-site at the store.]

The Sladda cargo trailer retails for $179 [or $129 at the IKEA FAMILY member price.]

See my review of the Sladda Bike Trailer.

Spotted at West Shore Pizza

The next time you’re driving along the west shore of Lake Tahoe stop in at West Shore Pizza in Tahoma, CA. If not for their awesome pizza and collections of beers, but to see their collection of vintage bicycles hanging from the walls and ceiling.

Here are just a few…

West Shore Pizza has super friendly staff, good food, and a great atmosphere.

A fleet of Huffy Cranbrooks

Saw an ad today on a Burning Man Facebook Group to which I belong — a theme camp was selling of its camp’s collection of playa bikes. I pounced.

These are the bikes in the back of my truck. Almost all of them are Huffy Cranbrook cruisers. [Three are already spoken for for the upcoming burn.

Slow Rollers Poker Run 2016 – South Lake Tahoe

Today I took part in a bicycle poker run organized by the Slow Rollers Bicycle Club of South Shore, Lake Tahoe. This was a very fun, well run, beautiful ride along the south shore of South Lake Tahoe.

One of the participants was riding a Corker Monster Cruiser. (pictured above).  For those not familiar with this bike, this is the world’s first (and maybe only) 36″ wheel bicycle.  As the name implies, this thing is monstrous.  Look how it dwarfs the 26″-ers around it.

This is the first Corker that I’ve actually seen in the wild. Impressive bike.

Pictured above is a cool stretched custom frame bike.

Above are a few of the participants at one of the stops along the way.

I rode the Da Vinci Flying Machine (always a head turner and crowd pleaser) for the event. Here is the Flying Machine parked along the beautiful and scenic shores of Eldorado Beach, South Lake Tahoe – another of the stops.

Overall I was very impressed with this event and will definitely do it again.  This was my first Slow Rollers event, but will not be my last.  The Slow Rollers Bicycle Club website has a list of the events they host.


Blinky Man 5: Cinco de Blinko

Blinky Man was so much fun last year that Lorri and I had to attend again this year.

This year’s ride was called Blinky Man 5: Cinco de Blinko.  For this year’s Blinky Man ride, I rode the Playa Marauder (pictured below)…

…and Lorri rode the Mongoose Beast.

Riders gathering and listening to the pre-ride event director’s talk. (Below)

Just a few of the bikes seen at this year’s Blinky Man ride…

A sweet rat bike…

Blinky Man takes place in downtown Cason City, and is a must-attend event if you’re in the area.

I believe the next one will take place sometime in October 2017.

Constructing the rotor mount

Next, the rotor and right-angle drill attachment must be mounted to the top of the rotor tower. The mount needs to be strong enough to withstand the force exerted upon it by the drive system.

The design I came up with was a three-point mounting bracket to securely hold the right-angle drill attachment (shown above). Utilizing the left and right bolt holes intended for the drill attachment’s handle, I bolted the attachment to two pieces of steel (bed frame). I then drilled a hole through a third piece of bed frame just large enough for the attachment’s drive shaft spacer to slip through and easily spin.

Here’s another shot of the right-angle drill attachment mounting bracket (above).  The pieces are clamped and ready to be tacked.

Pictured above is the finished rotor mount.

Pictured above is the completed rotor tower and rotor mount (viewed from above).  Prior to welding, the mount was clamped to the tower and the tower bolted to the trike frame in order to position mount accurately for proper chain alignment of the drive system. This took a little adjusting of both the rotor mount above and positioning of the freewheel on the trike rear axel.

However, once correctly aligned, the drive system worked as planned. With the use of plenty of C clamps I was able to perform a roll test of the Flying Machine prior to final welding.

Building the rotor tower

The rotor had to be mounted high enough above the rider’s head to prevent accidental contact with the rider’s head or hands. And, of course, the tower had to be strong enough to support a spinning rotor.

I did not want to weld the rotor tower to the trike frame because I wanted to be able to mount and unmount the entire assembly (tower and rotor) when desired. So, a bolt-on tower was necessitated.

The Torker Trike has four pre-drilled holes through it’s rear frame (shown in the photo above).  These holes are provided to mount the trike’s rear basket, however they also support installation of a rear canopy structure.

I chose to use these holes to mount the rotor tower.

The simple design of the rotor tower (shown in the photo above) consisted two open rectangular frames (a top and bottom) welded to four corner supports. Keeping the bottom frame open allows for the drive system’s chain to run up and down through the middle of the tower — lending a cool steampunk aesthetic, as well.

For the top and bottom rectangular frame material I used my go-to source of steel — repurposed bed frames (leftover lengths from previous projects pictured above). Used bed frames can be found very inexpensively off of Craigslist or at your local thrift store. I have even found them for free in Craigslist’s “Free Stuff” section.

For the tower supports I used my other favorite go-to material — EMT Conduit. For this project I used 3/4″ diameter EMT Conduit. 10′ lengths of this material can be purchased for less than $4 a piece at your local hardware store.

And, yes, I considered using the steel bed frame angle iron for the tower supports as well, but I felt the use of EMT conduit would look better as well as reduce weight.

I sized the tower’s bottom and top frames to match the depth between the trike’s two rear cross members.

Use a corner clamp (shown above) to hold the pieces in place for tack welding.

Pictured above is the rotor tower’s bottom support frame. Make an identical 2nd one for the top frame.

With the EMT cut to length use magnetic 90-degree welding supports to hold the EMT in place for tack welding.

Pictured above is the completed frame for rotor tower. Strong, Sturdy, bombproof.  Now to construct the rotor mount.

Sourcing the chain for the drive

I didn’t realize at the onset of this build, but the project ultimately required about 14 feet of bicycle chain.

I had some used chains in my parts bins, but some were in pretty bad shape (i.e. rusted, froze, etc.). After collecting usable pieces I was still short. At this point I could have simply purchased new chain, but what’s the fun in that.

Rather than purchase new I visited my go-to place for inexpensive bike parts to find all the chain I needed. The Kiwanis Bike Program (pictured above) is a great source for bikes, frames, parts, and more, AND at a fraction of the cost of new. Oftentimes a small monetary donation is all that is asked for parts. [AND it goes to a good cause. Check out for more info – Ed.]

After sourcing enough chain it was time to clean the dirty ones. I have a ultrasonic cleaner that I picked up at Harbor Freight that I use as a parts cleaner for my dirty greasy bike parts.

In the photos above you can see the “before” and “after” shots of the same chain after going for dip in the ultrasonic parts cleaner.

The Drive System — freewheel, sprocket, and other bits

With the rotor built it was time to move on to the drive system. The Da Vinci Flying Machine’s drive system consisted of simply connecting the trike’s rear (live) axel to the right-angle drill attachment via a long length of bicycle chain.

I purchased a 13-tooth sprocket to attach to the drive of the right-angle drill attachment and a 22-tooth freewheel to mount on the live axel. Also purchased the appropriate freewheel adaptors (see photo above and parts list below.)

In the photo above the 22T freewheel is seen installed on the rear axle.

In order to mount the 13T sprocket (5/8″ ID) on to the right-angle drill attachment’s 1/2″ drive I needed a spacer (shown in the photo above).

The photo above shows the 13T sprocket, the sprocket adaptor, and the spacer attached to the right-angle drill attachment’s drive shaft.

Parts list for the above…

[Update: For the final version of the build I swapped placement of the freewheel and sprocket. In other words, I used the 13-tooth sprocket on the trike axle and used the 22-tooth freewheel on the right-angle drill attachment. For more detail see the Comments in this post: The Da Vinci Flying Machine in Action.]

Building the rotor

In the spirit of repurposing, I picked up a used ceiling fan from the “free” section of Craigslist. [This was either in 2014 or 2015 – Ed.] The fan has been sitting in my shop [taking up space] until now.

First thing I did was remove the fan blades and their brackets. These are the pieces I repurposed for the Flying Machine’s rotor.


Next, I prepared a 5″ blank metal plate ($1.18 from Home Depot) for attaching the fan blade brackets and blades to.



First I drilled a 3/8″ center hole.


This hole is for the rotor’s main vertical shaft.


Then, using a compass, I marked a concentric circle on which to align the holes to be drilled for the fan blade brackets.  Note: Alignment is crucial here; take your time and get this right.

Use whatever method suits you to ensure equal spacing between the fan blades.

Once marked, drill the holes.  I drilled pilot holes and then stepped up to a 1/4″ drill bit. The finished plate is pictured below.


After the holes were drilled I attached the fan blade brackets using 1/4″ hex bolts and nyloc nuts.


…And then installed the rotor’s shaft. I used a 3/8″ bolt for the rotor’s shaft.  Note: all nuts used on the rotor assembly are nylon insert lock nuts (aka nylon nuts).  I used these type of nuts because the expected vibration and motion on the assembly.


…And, finally, install the rotor’s blades. In the picture below the rotor’s blades have been installed and the rotor’s shaft is inserted into the 90° drive. Note: another plus of using a right-angle drill attachment for the 90° gear box is that the drill attachment’s chuck makes attaching and removing the rotor [e.g. for transport] very easy.


Why a right-angle drill attachment?

What is this thing and what will it be used for?


You’re looking at a right-angle drill attachment.

This little device performs the same function as a 90° gear box.


…specifically, to accept power (torque) onto the input drive shaft and to turn the direction of drive through 90 degrees (a right angle) to the output drive shaft.


The drill attachment achieves this functionality in the same way a 90° gear box does — through the use of two bevel gears.


Using this apparatus is more cost-effective and practical than building my own 90° gear drive system or gear box. And why do I need a 90° drive system? Because the power from pedaling the trike [where the sprockets are aligned vertically] needs to transfer to the rotor blades of the Flying Machine [where the rotor is aligned horizontally (or at 90° to the trike’s drive system)].

[Although, building a gear box would have been a fun project in itself; after noodling around with some designs and looking at the cost of supplies {gears are expensive!}, I determined that this piece of the Flying Machine project could best be attained with this right-angle drill attachment. Plus, I found one for less than $12. – Ed.]

Chariot for the Kids (aka Makeshift Pedicab Trailer)

For our third Burning Man experience (2010) my wife and I decided to take our kids with us. We knew they would have a blast riding their bikes across the flat expanses of the playa. But having experienced the sheer size of Black Rock City in years prior we also knew that the distances travelled to get from one art installation to the next would quickly tire our children. So I began to think of a solution that would allow us to bike across the open playa as a family.

The main mode of transportation in BRC is by bicycle. The obvious solution was some kind of bike trailer in which to pull the kids around. In 2010, I had not yet begun building custom and mutated bikes.  I had no welder, grinder, or materials.  Heck, I didn’t even have a workshop back then.

So, my trailer design needed to be simple, and built from repurposed items. I searched Craigslist for bike trailers, and found a used one for $30.  The canopy was torn and dirty, but that was fine because all I needed were the wheels and bottom frame.

I removed the canopy and canopy’s support rods. As luck would have it, the steel frame had four brackets welded to it for connecting the canopy’s supporting frame.  These brackets were positioned nicely for attaching a chair to. The chair I had in mind was a reclining camp chair, which I already had.

Again, as luck would have it, the width of the recliner’s legs matched the width of the trailer’s frame. When opened the recliner’s legs fit nicely between the front and rear canopy mounting brackets on the frame. I then securely fastened the recliner to the trailer frame and took it for a spin.

Success! My first build — pre-welder days. Of course, I admit I got lucky that the used trailer I picked up and the camp chair that I had in the garage sized so well together. Also, the design of the recliner was such that when the rider reclined the center of gravity remained over the trailer’s wheels and axle.

Pictured below is my daughter in “The Kids Chariot” at Burning Man 2010.

Of course what Burning Man chariot wouldn’t be complete without some protection from the sun. In the photo below you can see a repurposed beach umbrella stuck inside a piece of PVC pipe.

This was a quick and easy DIY build and would mark the beginning of many more bike builds to come.

Our family at Burning Man 2010.

Da Vinci’s Flying Machine

The art theme for 2016’s Burning Man was Da Vinci’s Workshop. I was particularly excited with this theme because I knew it would bring out even a greater number of mechanical-related builds, projects and art pieces to the event. But more so, this theme provided me an excuse a reason to finally build something that I had been thinking about for some time.

I had always wanted to place a rotor (think helicopter) on a bike (or better yet, trike), which would spin when the rider pedaled. This project seemed to fit nicely with 2016’s Burning Man art theme. On top of that, I had recently retaken possession of the Torker Trike. How could I not build this?

Hence the build that came to be known as Da Vinci’s Flying Machine.

The Marauder returns to Burning Man 2016 – after a repair and a mod

The Playa Marauder remains my favorite bike Burning Man. The sheer size of it continues to strike fear into the hearts of the citizens of BRC. 🙂

For 2016 I made a repair and a modification to the beast. During the 2015 festival I lost a couple spokes on one of the front wheels. I thought I’d simply purchase a couple new spokes and install them. Wrong!

As you may or may not be aware, typically when a spoke drops out of a rim while moving the spoke will tangle around the rotating axle tightening against itself until it brings the bike to a complete stop …unless discovered immediately and stopped.

In my case I was unaware of the dropped spoke until the Marauder was slowed to a halt each time. At that point I was forced to dismount the beast and unwind the steel spoke from the axle in order to proceed.

What I was unaware at time and did not discover until I attempted to replace the spokes was that the weight and momentum of the Marauder wrapped the steel spoke so tightly around the axle that the entire front hub twisted.

Here’s a shot of the torqued front hub.

How the heck did that happen?!

Pretty gnarly, huh?

So, my thought of a relatively quick and easy spoke replacement turned into sourcing a new front hub and a complete re-lacing of the wheel.  [Given the unique size of the wheels (32″) this was not an easy task.]

You can be sure that I tightened the spokes on this re-lacing quite tight. And I’m happy to report that not a single spoke was dropped during the 2016 festival.

The modification I made was to make a new set of front fenders utilizing the original rear fenders from the Genesis Super 32’s.  Because the rear fenders are longer than the front fenders, using them in the front really lowered their profile (see photo below).

As you can see I modified the rear fenders in the same cow-catcher style that I had used on the original front fenders.

Above is a photo of the Playa Marauder in its element at Burning Man 2016.

I’m always thinking of new builds for the playa.  Not sure what I’ll build for 2017’s festival, but regardless the Marauder will accompany me as well.

My First Burning Man Bike Project

[Because this was my first build and was completed many years prior to the creation of this blog, I did not take step-by-step photos of the build process at the time.  Therefore I am writing this account a few years after the fact; consequently this is the only post in this particular build thread. – Ed.]

I attended Burning Man for the first time in 2008. After seeing all the amazing art installations and mutated (modified) vehicles and bicycles I knew that I had to make something for my next visit to Burning Man, which occurred the following year — 2009.

Music is a big part of the festival.  In fact, music can be heard everywhere; at all times. All types of music can be found, but predominantly consists of EDM.  Multiple sources being played simultaneously across the city truly creates a cacophony of sound.

So for 2009 I thought I’d add to the atmosphere with a mobile sound system. My thought was for a self-sustained rig that I could bring anywhere via a bike — since bicycles are the main mode of transportation in Black Rock City.

As I thought about the size of the sound system that I wanted to build I realized that an adult-size trike rather than a bicycle would provide greater possibilities.

Searching Craigslist I found a used trike for sale which I snapped up.  It was a Torker Tristar with 24″ wheels all around.  Now the build could commence.

Above is the sound system on the trike.  I took this rig out to Burning Man for four or five years in a row. It never failed me and its sounds (mainly 70s AM pop) brought joy to many a burner.

Along the years some enhancements were made. For example in 2010 I swapped the Torker Tristar’s 24″ front wheel and fork for a 26″ front wheel and fork — a nice improvement for traversing the (soft, at times) playa surface.

I also replaced the original motor cycle 12V battery for a Werker deep cycle 12V batter — another nice improvement that added hours of playing time between recharges.

Recently I found some notes from when I built the original incarnation of the Torker Tristar mobile sound system. Below you’ll see a scan of the list of parts I sourced (mainly from Craigslist) for the build.

One amp drives the 12″ sub-woofer and the other drives the mid-ranges and tweeter.  Oh yeah, I forgot to mention this thing gets LOUD!

Also, looking at the list above I see that another enhancement I made to the system was to replace the crappy Roadmaster 2-way speaker system with a much more efficient (read: LOUDER) Cerwin-Vega speaker box (pictured on top of the subwoofer above).

All components of the system were mounted (with large, bomb-proof, wood screws) to the subwoofer’s wooden box.  I then added handles to the sub so that the entire system could be lifted out of it’s form-fitting, framed platform.  In this way I could remove the system from the trike for those times I did not want to carry around the weight of the system.

The handles also served as a nice back-up tie down point to secure the sound system to the trike’s frame.  All-in-all the entire rig was pretty bombproof.

Because this was pre-bluetooth days, I played music through a 1st-generation iPod Touch. I had many mixes pre-loaded on to the iPod Touch, but as I mentioned above the 70’s AM pop was always a crowd pleaser.

Spotted at The Generator

Here’s a sweet cruiser I spotted in Sparks, Nevada suspended from the roof of The Generator.

What’s The Generator you might ask? The Generator is an awesome 34,000-square-foot makerspace open to the community and filled with tools and industrial equipment to allow people to design, create and make things. Check them out at The Reno Generator.

Spotted at Blinky Man 2016

Check out this cool mutant custom build spotted at Blinky Man in Carson City, Nevada. Front-wheel drive! Note the disco ball light hanging from the frame’s bottom tube and the battery required to run all the lights.

Here’s the contraption and it’s maker pictured.

I rode the Da Vinci Flying Machine for the event.  Below is a shot of me standing next to it.  [Photo credit: Blinky Man Carson City – June 25, 2016]

And what is Blinky Man you may ask? “Blinky Man is a costumed Bike Ride at Night, with Lights, through Carson City, NV. The most bikable and friendliest town in Nevada!” …and a heck of a fun event!


Mr. Bones

“Mr. Bones wants you to keep healthy by eating nutritious foods and getting plenty of rest and exercise. It’s fun to care for your body!”

So reads the caption on this cute display in the Children’s Hospital New Orleans.

I captured this shot through the window while attending a conference in New Orleans.

Vintage Schwinn Exerciser Bike

What a find! Picked up this vintage Schwinn Exerciser bike at Savers (one of our local thrift shops) for $14.99. It’s in awesome condition, and works just fine. Just needs to be cleaned and lubed.



I initially picked this up for “TBD” project. I say “TBD” because my shop is full of found bikes, wheels, bed frames (for the metal), and assorted other items that will be chopped, hacked and utilized for future builds. …even if, at the time of acquisition, I have no idea what I intend to do with the specific item.

Because building mutant and custom bikes is simply a [self-funded] hobby, I strive to pick-up most items or materials at no [or negligible] cost. This means for free, or for few bucks at most. I rarely will pay over $10 for an item unless the parts total much more than that.

The other instance of when I might pay more than $10 for an items is if it is unique enough to warrant it. Such was the case when I spied this vintage Schwinn Exerciser bike



What drew me initially to this beauty was the sheer size if the chain ring. At 65 teeth I have nothing that large in my parts chest.  Imagine the outrageous gear ratios that can be achieved with that monster.  [Indeed, later while researching this bike online I found that someone had actually built a grain mill by modding their Schwinn Exerciser bike. Check it out at Baking, Biking, and the Country Living Grain Mill. – Ed.]

In my attempt to determine the age of this vintage piece, here’s what I’ve found by going through the Schwinn Catalogs of past

1973_schwinn_deluxe_exerciser_2 source: 1973 Schwinn Catalog

1974_schwinn_deluxe_exercisersource: 1974 Schwinn Catalog

1977_schwinn_deluxe_exercisersource: 1977 Schwinn Catalog

  • 1978 Model XR6 …. $156.95  Same solid chainring; this could be it as well.
  • 1979 XR6-0 …. $169.95  The control panel is different on this one. Nope.

So, from the above catalogs I can say, with a high level of confidence, that the model I have is either a 1977 Schwinn Deluxe Exerciser Model XR5 or a 1978 Model XR6.

Found this awesome build, on the Rat Rod Bikes forum, utilizing a Schwinn Exerciser frame: A New Twist On The Schwinn Excersiser..WOW!

Mad Max touches

A shout out to Rat Rod Bikes forum user, LocoJoe, who posted pics of his “Post Apocalypse Bike” in one of the RRB galleries. On his bike build LocoJoe cut a bike rim into pieces and used the pieces to create a cowcatcher-esque front fender.  I thought it looked cool and decided the Playa Marauder needed something similar.  Four 12″ rims from little kids bikes were chopped to build these features.





Tying it all together

Go-kart tie rods are used to link the two outside forks to the center steering tube.


Before welding on the steering connector plates to the bottom of the forks make sure the forks are in perfect alignment. I use a steel rod for this.


Then make sure you employ a bit of Ackerman steering geometry to the steering plates on the bottom of the forks.  Again the Atomic Zombie plans have step-by-instructions on achieving the correct steering geometry. Pictured below you can see the steering tabs welded to the bottom side of my left and right forks, respectively. [Remember you’re looking at this forks from the bottom.]

88 87

The center steering plate welded on to the bottom of the center steering tube.


Connecting the steering tabs with the tie rods.



Building the cross members

I cut four equal lengths of 1″ EMT conduit and then cut and ground fishmouth cutouts into the ends to ensure a flush 90-degree joint. [Hint: use a fishmouth template. Google it.]


Pictured below are the homemade steering tubes welded up.


Pictured below are the head tubes welded to the cross members.


They match!72

Cross members are then mounted at 90-degrees to the Beast’s middle head tube. Alignment is critical here.

Creating the steering tube

Typically, when converting a bicycle to a three-wheel tadpole design, the bike’s original fork is chopped to create the steering tube to which to connect the tie rods.


However, because the main bike was a “fat tire” bike with a front fork that fit a 4-1/4″-wide tire, I chose to save the fork (and wheel).  […for some other project TBD.]


…And so it was off to my parts bin to find a new fork that would fit the Beast’s head tube.


Unfortunately I did not possess the correct size. So, it was off to the Reno Bike Project to find a fork to fit. As you can see from the picture below, the Reno Bike Project has a little more variety in forks than I do.


I found one that fit for $10.  Love Reno Bike Project! ♥


Next the legs were chopped off the found fork…



…and then the cut edges were ground smooth.


Then the connector plate for the tie rods was welded onto the bottom of the steering tube.


Btw, detailed step-by-step plans for building a “tadpole” design trike can be found in Atomic Zombie’s “Bicycle Bonanza” book of plans.  Note: I utilized Atomic Zombie’s step-by-step “Hammerhead Winter Trike” plans for this build.  A BIG Thank You to Atomic Zombie.

Bicycle Builders Bonanza

Fabricating the headtubes

One of the first hurdles I encountered was that Genesis Super 32’s frame was made of aluminum, which meant I could not weld it. [The welder I use can only weld steel.]

This presented a challenge in that I could no longer use the Genesis Super 32’s head tubes, which I totally needed because of the unique size of the Super 32’s head tube — it was quite large; both in diameter and length. And nothing in my stockpile of bike frames would fit the Super 32’s bearing cups and fork.


Next I thought I would simply cut a piece of steel pipe to the appropriate length. Unfortunately none of the pieces of steel pipe that I had in my materials bin had the appropriate inside diameter to seat the bearing cups. The picture below shows that I got close with a piece of 1.5″ EMT conduit, alas not close enough.


So it was off to the hardware store; bearing cup and magnet in hand. …bearing cup to make sure the found item was the correct size; and magnet to make sure the found item was steel.

After a little digging around I found a coupling for 1.5″ EMT conduit that fit the bearing cups nicely. [See an EMT 1-1/2 in. Set Screw Coupling from Home Depot pictured below].


Unfortunately, off the shelf, the coupling was too short for the fork’s length. [See the coupling matched against the Super 32’s head tube pictured below.]


Not a problem. I would simply cut the coupling in half and then extend it appropriately with a piece of 1.5″ EMT conduit and weld the whole thing together.


The coupling made this task easy in that it had a grove in the center offering the perfect cutting guide, as well as set screws to hold the conduit in place during welding.


Pictured below is the homemade steering tube assembled (pre-weld) with bearing cups and bearings mounted onto a Genesis Super 32 fork.


It was as though the little coupling was destined to become a head tube. Pictured below are two homemade head tubes.


The Marauder build begins

Because I had built essentially the same design the previous year (see Gitche Gumee Tadpole), this build went very smoothly and quickly. [As always, a big Thank You goes out to Atomic Zombie DIY bike projects for providing the plans for this project! Note: I utilized Atomic Zombie’s step-by-step “Hammerhead Winter Trike” plans for this build. These plans can be found online and in AZ’s “Bicycle Bonanza” book of plans.]

The goal was to create a monster-sized tadpole-design three-wheeler with the aesthetics seen on the mutant vehicles depicted in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015).

The monster size was achieve by utilizing the frame and rear drive train of a 26″ Mongoose Beast All-Terrain Fat Tire Mountain bike and the front ends (forks, wheels and tires) of two 32″ Genesis Super 32 Cruisers. [Yes, I had these laying around the shop.]

The Mongoose Beast I found on Craigslist a couple years previously for less than $100. Because of the tall profile (sidewall height) of the Beast’s tires, the overall tire’s outside diameter matched that of the Genesis Super 32’s tires.

craigslist beast

One of the Genesis Super 32’s I purchased new online for $179; the other I picked up at the Kiwanis Bike Program for $100.

I had already used the rear wheels of these two bikes for another project [in process], so I needed to find a home for the two front wheels anyway.

As the name implies the Genesis Super 32 features 32″ wheels! The size of these incredibly tall wheels really need to be seen in person to be truly appreciated.


[Note: In actuality, despite the marketing of “32”, the outside diameter of the tire is closer to 31″ than 32″; but still, these suckers are huge.


I also utilized the handle bars and stem from one of the Super 32’s; and saved the chains and seats for parts. But because the frame is aluminum (as opposed to steel), there isn’t much I can do with the frame (from a weldability standpoint), because the welder I use can only weld steel.

So, unfortunately, the two Super 32 frames may have to become scrap. [You never know though — a project may present itself.] [And, in fact, at the end of the steps of this build you’ll see that the rear fenders were also modded and utilized. – Ed.]

The Mongoose Beast

In the spring of 2013 Walmart introduced the 26″ Mongoose Beast Men’s All-Terrain Fat Tire Mountain Bike to serve the “fat tire” bike wave that was sweeping the nation.

As with most of the bikes Walmart sells the Mongoose Beast was/is an inexpensive alternative to the top-of-the-line fat tire bikes sold by other manufacturers. In fact, at $199, the Beast was a fraction of the cost one would expect to pay for a name brand, full-featured fat tire bike.
2013 Walmart Beast
The Mongoose Beast was single-speed on “supersized beach cruiser 4-1/4″ knobby tires” and featured a “rigid steel, cruiser design frame”. [Personally, I think the frame is more of a BMX design rather and cruiser design.]

Of course the quality of the Beast was debatable. The Mongoose Beast was much maligned and ridiculed by passionate fat tire enthusiasts. See Gear Junkie’s Fat Bike trend Dead? Walmart sells ‘Beast’ bike for $199 or MTBR’s forum Walmart Mongoose Beast sucks!, or many others.

However the Beast also had it’s legions of fans — particularly amongst bicycle builders. With it’s 4.25″-wide wheel set and tires, and steel frame (good for welding) the Beast offered bike hackers and builders an inexpensive palette from which to design. Heck, one couldn’t even pick up a fat-tire wheel for the $199 price tag of the Beast.

As an example of what could be done with the Beast see Rat Rod Bikes’ forum Mongoose Beast Fat Bike build and ideas. [Last I checked there were 29 pages of comments on that thread.] Or, check out one of my own builds, the Playa Marauder, that used a Mongoose Beast as a central component.

I purchased my first Mongoose Beast (pictured above) in 2013 for use on the playa during Burning Man. It immediately became my go-to bike for traversing the playa — and remains so today. With its 4-1/4″ wide tires, the Beast floats effortlessly across the unpredictable dunes and ruts of the ever changing playa surface. Additionally it’s simple single-speed design lends itself well to the harsh dusty conditions of the playa.

My Beast [pictured below] features ape hanger handlebars and lay back seat post to give me more room in the cockpit. I also swapped out the pedals.


As I mentioned above, for my needs, the Mongoose Beast can not be beat. Out of the box, stock, the Beast is hands down one of the best bikes for Burning Man, IMO. For chopping and hacking the Beast offers an inexpensive means to add some “fat tire” to one’s builds.

Though seldom seen on the floor of Walmart stores today, the Mongoose Beast can be ordered through Walmart’s website. And sometimes on sale for much less than the $199 list price. [I have seen it as low as $169 on sale.] Occasionally one can find a Beast on Craigslist. For example, I picked up this one for less than $100 on Craigslist in 2014.

craigslist beast

Which I later used for the Playa Marauder build.

marauder 9

The Playa Marauder

The Playa Marauder was a very fun build begun in June 2015 and finished in August 2015.  This bike project was built for Burning Man 2015.

Like the Gitche Gumee Tadpole built the year prior, the Playa Marauder employed a three-wheel “tadpole” design.  The tadpole design is perfect for the soft and unpredictable surface conditions of the playa.  Such a design has all the stability of a trike, but also the direct-drive traction provided by a single rear wheel drive.

marauder 6

When I unveiled this bad-boy to the interwebs this was the introduction accompanying the unveiling..

Introducing my latest mutant bike build for Burning Man 2015: the Playa Marauder.  One part Mongoose Beast, two parts Genesis Super 32, and eight parts attitude add up to an eleven on the 10-point Badass scale.

A Mad-Max:Fury-Road-inspired pillager on three wheels, this human-powered playa vehicle features a supersized all-terrain 4-1/4”-wide knobby fat tire on the rear and dual 32” front wheels tadpole-configured on an 38” axle track — allowing this bad boy to effortlessly traverse the deepest playa serpents. Built on pieces chopped from more than seven bicycles, this amalgamation of repurposed bike parts sports inverted cow-catcher-esque fenders in front and a turret-mounted pneumatic harpoon in the rear resulting in a monster trike that is as striking as it is terrifying.

marauder 9

Upholstering the seat

There is no shortage of how-to videos and online resources that provide instructions on upholstering a bench. [Google “upholster a bench” to see what I mean.] Just remember to cut the fabric large enough to wrap around the foam padding and plywood back while leaving ample fabric to which to staple. You can always trim off the excess later. Also, don’t forget to place your bolts in the seat back prior to upholstering.


Making the seat cushions

Making the seat cushions. I sanded the edges of the plywood seat back and bottom so that they would not tear the fabric. Note: if the plywood fits snugly into the frame, then you may need to trim the size slightly in order for the plywood to be able to fit again after the fabric is attached.


Top bar

Prior to painting I added a top bar bar to the frame. This piece will ultimately support hooks, lights and other accoutrements.


Preparing to paint

With the pedicab build essentially complete it is now time to add the icing (i.e. paint). Break down the build to its separate components in order to prep for painting; clean up welds; remove weld splatter; sand rough areas; etc. etc. The more pre-painting prep work you do, the better the result of painting. I intend to prime, paint and let cure over the course of a few days. While I’m waiting for the paint to cure, I’ll upholster the seat bottom and back.


Making armrests

Making armrests. The armrests for the seat were made from 1″ EMT. I was able to use my pipe bender on the 1″ size, so no need to buy 90° elbows. These were clamped into place; positioned appropriately and then welded onto the frame.


Beginning the seat

For the seat bottom and back I’m starting with a sheet of ply wood. I will pad and upholster these pieces to make custom seat cushions. Like the floorboards, these plywood sheets are attached to the frame using carriage bolts. Under the seat bottom I welded a cross support to add strength and rigidity to the seat.


Carriage bolts looks nice

I used carriage bolts to attach the floorboards to the pedicab’s frame. Carriage bolts have a rounded smooth top that are perfectly suited for the pedicab’s floor. Plus they give it a good look. Note, carriage bolts will require a square hole. [Hint: drill a hole and then use a square file to reshape.]



I discovered a few pieces of pre-finished engineered hardwood flooring sitting in the back of my garage. W00t! Recycle, Reuse, Repurpose. These salvage pieces work great for the pedicab’s floorboards. Pros: strong, durable, and look good. Con: Very heavy. If they didn’t weigh so much, I would have considered using them for the seat bottom and back as well…a la picnic table style.


Putting together the hitch

Putting it all together. I welded flanges to the top and bottom of the seat post sleeve. The spherical joint is slid between these pieces. Holes have drilled in the flanges for the hitch pin to be inserted. Note the use of a nut to lock down the spherical joint bolt to the top tub. Hint: loosen this nut when installing the trailer to the tow bike. Then, when in position, tighten the nut.


More hitch fabrication

Creating the end cap of the hitch’s top tube. Weld a steel nut into the center of a steel washer that is at least the size of the OD of your hitch’s top tube. Note: I sanded the corners of the nut slightly in order to have it fit inside the center hole of the washer. Then weld the washer onto the end of the top tube.


Homemade rod-end bearing

Weld the spherical joint to a bolt. This bolt will be used to connect to the top tube of the of the hitch arm. As noted previously, this ball joint is key to providing X-, Y- and Z-axis movement. My first hitch design allowed for only X- and Y-axis movement. The entire rig was very difficult to turn. Because the tow bike could not be leaned independently of the trailer, the trailer had a tendency to steer the tow bike.


Homemade square steel tubing

Seat post sleeve. I fabricated the square tubing by welding together two pieces of angle iron. Make sure the sleeve slides easily over the seat post of the tow bike. A piece of appropriately-sized pipe, EMT, or a bushing can all work for this purpose. I set the seat post sleeve at an angle that matched that of the tow bike’s seat post.


The helm joint

Google “pedicab trailer hitch” and you will get thousands of results. I discovered a variety of homemade designs. The one I decided upon is pictured here. The key component of this design is the “spherical” joint, also known as a him joint or rod end bearing. The ball joint is essential for providing movement on X, Y, and Z axes. Trust me on this, the hitch needs to allow the trailer to move left and right (X axis); up and down (Y axis); and to tilt when the tow bike leans in to a turn (Z axis).



Attaching the hitch attachment

I made a couple cuts into the coupler in order to have it slide over the frame and cross support. These two cuts were made long enough to provide enough weld inches for strength. Because the trailer is detachable from the hitch, a 5/16″ pin with a wire lock mechanism was used to secure the coupler type to the hitch tube.


Hitch attachment

To connect the pedcab to tow bike’s hitch I created a simple coupler using a 1-1/4” EMT 90° elbow. I purchased a pre-bent 90° elbow because I did not have the means to manually bend 1-1/4” EMT tubing. [My pipe bender will bend only 1” EMT.] Also, as you will see later, the OD of 1-1/4” EMT slides nicely into the inside of a 1-1/2” EMT tube. In this way the pedicab is detachable from the hitch — for portability purposes.


Strengthening the frame

Before attaching the floorboards I stood on them and noticed some flex when stepping onto the pedicab’s platform. I decided to add a cross support to provide some additional strength and stability to the floor.


Seat attachments and trusses

Because the seat attachments were welded to the frame only on their inside edges [so that the seat legs could slide all the way down to the frame on the outside of the attachments], I added trusses (in blue) for strength.


Seat attachments and trusses

Upper right: The pieces to make the seat-to-frame attachments and trusses. Upper left: seat attachments bolted to the seat legs. No better way to ensure proper placement of the attachment for welding. Lower left and right: Attachments in position on frame. Ready to weld. (Hint: tack weld each attachment (4) on the inside edge prior to fully welding.


Making the seat removable

Attaching the completed seat to the bottom frame. There are a few ways to attach the seat to the frame. I could have welded it directly to the frame. However, at that point, it would have been fixed (i.e. non removable). For portability purposes I wanted to be able to remove the seat from the frame, if needed. To achieve this functionality, I would need to bolt the seat to the frame. Here you can see some trusses I built and welded to the frame on which to bolt the seat.


Keep extra supplies on hand

Also ran out of welding wire. Off to Harbor Freight Tools for more. FYI, I use a 90-amp flux wire welder for my bicycle-related projects. I run 0.035″ flux core wire through the welder. [Hint: Perhaps it’s good idea to have an extra spool of welding wire (or rods) on hand prior to starting your project.]


Taking shape

This is the partially completed [no seat back yet] seat resting on the pedicab’s bottom frame. [Props are no longer needed to visualize the end product. Yay!] Notice the rear legs are very tall. That is because they will also hold the cross supports that create the seat’s back. I wanted the entire back of the chair from top to bottom to be one piece for simplicity.


Setting up the weld

Setting up the seat legs for welding. C clamps at each top corner are used to hold the legs in place in setting up the weld. The piece of angle iron on the floor is being used to spread the seat legs the appropriate distance to insure the legs are perpendicular to the seat bottom. With the legs perpendicular (both in the left-to-right direction as well as the front-to-back direction, the seat bottom should be level.


Seat bottom

Building the seat. The pedicab’s seat was built in the same manner as its bottom frame. The four sides were cut and mitered at 45°; clamped and squared; tack welded at each outside edge; checked for squareness again; and then welded completely.


Ensuring alignment

When welding the dropouts alignment is crucial. [You want your pedicab to roll straight and have no wheel scrub.] Use the wheel or a spare axel to ensure alignment between the two drop outs. Note also the use of a square to ensure alignment of the axel to the frame.


Fabricating the dropouts

I fabricated the dropouts for the pedicab’s wheels from the same angle iron from which the frame was built. I drilled and cut holes to match those that were in the stock forks from which the wheels came. The dropouts were then welded to the underside of the pedicab’s frame.


When you can’t source the part, make the part

I happen to find a couple bikes with identical dropouts (pictured), but then I decided not to destroy the two frames. I also considered using a couple of the braces that came off of the salvaged bed frames. Ultimately, I decided to make (rather than hack) my own dropouts for the pedicab wheel. [More details on these to follow.] By making my own, I can ensure they would fit the frame and wheels perfectly.


Sourcing dropouts

Wheel dropouts for builds can come from a variety of sources. Often the dropouts are hacked from the frame of donor bike from whence the wheels came. However, as can be seen in the photos of the forks, those dropouts are offset in an angle. I need straight dropouts for the pedicab, so those wouldn’t do. Next I looked through my stockpile of donor bikes for two identical sets of dropouts (the pedicab has two wheels after all).